Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Cover Reveal and Free Read Giveaway!

Okay people, here's the deal.

Soon, the first eBook in The Forever Series: RISKING FOREVER: Vol 1, will be ready for Pre-order on Amazon and a few other places. I'm talking by the end of next week, if I get my butt in gear. Pray for me. LOL 

**The Forever Series is a new adult college romance that contains adult language and content. It follows Ainsley, a conflicted sophomore desperate to control her life, and Sebastian Gianni, a sexy senior rumored to have connections to the Italian Mafia. The novel is written in Ainsley's POV but is available in Sebastian's POV for free to all who join the mailing list once the book launches.

Ainsley
My best friend has been obsessed with Sebastian since our freshman year in college. She wants him to herself, which is fine by me. He's a paycheck, a means to an end goal. He's temporary. But he's also tempting—the way he looks at me, the things he says, the way he touches me… If I'm not careful, I might do something I'll regret.

The full series blurb is on my novels page**


In the meantime, I'm hosting a cover reveal and giveaway of the first three chapters of RISKING FOREVER; Vol 1 to the first ten people who sign up for my mailing list. (Click on any page of the website and a box to "sign up and join" will appear.)

For current members, you will also get the first three chapters because you're awesome and already on the list!  

Hurry and be one of the first ten readers to win the free read giveaway! You will also receive updates on the launch of the series and new releases to come.


Once you are on the mailing list, you will receive a welcome greeting, I'll follow up with which format you'd prefer to receive the first three chapters to RISKING FOREVER: Vol 1.  (PDF or ePub for iPhone users)

Now, for the part I've been waiting for the cover reveal!  (drum roll)

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Ack and updates!

Ack! I’ve been so busy writing and editing I haven’t made the time to update this. CRINGES. 

          


The good news is RISKING FOREVER, the first new adult in the Forever Series, is still set to launch in January 2019.  WAHOO!



I hope to have the second book, Sebastian’s version (CLAMING FOREVER), ready shortly after.
I've started a third and fourth book to the series. Another with Ainsley and Sebastian and one with new characters. (Braylee and Grayson)

The plan is to get those out quickly too, but I also have a young adult retelling ready to launch FATED TO DIE. Last Christmas, I did 12 Days of Giving and posted the first 12 chapters of that novel.  

Since FATED TO DIE is in a different genre, it won’t follow the Forever series. However, I love the story and would love to share it, so we’ll see.

On a different note, I’ve started making book covers. I love it. It’s like a secret talent I never knew I had. But since it’s a form of creativity, it makes sense that I would become slightly obsessed. Who knew choosing fonts could be so much fun? Yes, you read that correctly. Meshing photographs together, adding textures, backgrounds, manipulating colors, changing filters. It's so involved, so fun! I need to stop using that word.
Anywho, if all goes well next month or early December I'm going to post a sneak peek of RISKING FOREVER, the first chapter or two.

Reminder. It’s not young adult, which has always been my genre. Although, my young adult has always been geared to older teens with seventeen and eighteen year old protagonists. The FOREVER SERIES is New Adult, college setting and ages. It’s contemporary romance. There are sex scenes woven throughout. But it’s more than that. Most romance novels are. However, it never ceases to amaze me when people hear I write romance novels or, better yet, that I write sex scenes in the novels and they assume two things; the book is a sex-only novel, and/or the sex scenes are an insight into my bedroom romps. Uh, NO!



 I like the response from an author at a romance novel conference. I can't remember which author on the panel said it, but when asked if the sex scenes in her novel were pulled from her personal experience, her humorous reply was something like (not quoting since I can't remember her exact words),

            Yes. I have weekly orgies with werewolves and vampires and draw my inspiration from those activities.

Writers get this, even if they don't write sex scenes. Developing and writing a character isn't that different from actors. They change their look and their behavior to reflect the character they are portraying. That's what authors do. The sex scenes are what the characters would do, not me. It's not an autobiography. It's fiction.

          Fiction by definition is: something invented by the imagination or feigned specifically: an invented story.

Another romance fantasy writer and friend (I'll call her Jane for privacy) told me after her first book launch, her neighbor came over after reading the book and hinted she knows what's going on in Jane and her husband's bedroom now.  Ew. No, she doesn't. Because it's fiction!   

 

Some people just don't get it.

Also, I have some pictures to post from my latest trip. I'll do it in a separate post, though. I've always wanted to stand on a mountain in New England during the fall and take in the mass of colorful leaves. The other week I fulfilled that dream and it was more beautiful than I had imagined. We visited an apple farm in north Massachusetts too. I got to pick my first apple from a tree. To my surprise, I loved it as much as seeing fall leaves in peak. It was like visiting a Hallmark movie set.

Happy October!!



Monday, July 23, 2018

FRANCE IS AWESOME!


I'm back from my first European vacation, and I loved it. I titled this "France is Awesome" because I visited more than just Paris. As shown in my previous post, the hubs and I traveled from Paris to Marseille, Aix-en Provence and the lavender fields in Provence. We took the train to the south of France and had amazing views of the French countryside. The towns looked like something out of fairy tales. The three-hour trip was comfy too with reclining oversized seats, a table for two, and food and drink service. More cheese and baguettes, please! Almost everywhere in France they served Evian versus the wretched Dasani like we get in the US. In fact, the south of France gets its water from the Swiss Alps. So yeah, that sh*t is fresh!!!!!
While I loved Paris—the architecture, history, museums, and cafes—I love, loved the small village of Amboise and one near the lavender fields, where I had my first lavender gelato. Delish! I was also amazed at how blue the Mediterranean Sea is, like a sapphire.

Remember when I said I hoped to be inspired by the trip to write a new novel? Well, it totally inspired a second novel in my contemporary romance series. A KISS BEFORE LYING. I had a different sequel in mind, which I'm keeping and making either the third or fourth book, but now I simply must write this sequel and continuation of Sebastian and Ainsley's story while they're in protective custody.  
Hint, hint. It opens with them living in hiding in Provence surrounded by the beautiful and fragrant lavender fields I visited.  Oh yes, we go there, and dare I say the opener is steamy!! Lavender and sex? Yep. It works! LOL.

I'll post some of my favorite pics from the trip, but really there are just too many to load. If you want to see more visit my Instagram where I've posted all of them! https://www.instagram.com/tagallina/
And if you get the chance to visit France, do it!!!!!


















TRAVEL FOR INSPIRATION

*Old post I forgot to add here since I've switched to another website https://www.taragallina.com/

I just finished planning our summer vacation and whoo! The task was daunting but also exciting. I've never traveled to Europe. Last year, we planned a trip to England and then backed out after all the terrorist attacks. Wimps, I know. 

We won't be doing that again!

The only international traveling I have done is to Cancun, and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. It seems like those places barely count since they’re just south of the border. However, the memory of going through Customs to enter another country and then doing it again to get back into the US assures me those trips were international. Ugh. 

Though beautiful, neither of those locations inspired a Mexican setting novel. Not sure why.

This summer we're going to France.


I can't imagine not being inspired by the location because it's France! The history, the castles, the gardens, the wine country, Paris, the sites, the language (C'est beau), the countryside, chateaus, the French Riviera (Côte d'Azur), Provence, the lavender fields, Marseille. Okay, I may have just listed the places I will be visiting this July. 

Imagine this, a day in Paris visiting the typical sites (The Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame, Jardin du Luxembourg, ect, all while gawking at the beauty and splendor of the romantic city). 
The following day, envision traveling by rail (window seat, think French Kiss with Meg Ryan) through the charming French countryside to Marseille, a city nestled on the Mediterranean Sea. Enjoy a day of sites like Vieux-Port (Old Port), Basilique Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde (Romanesque-Byzantine church), and Château d'If (the island known from the Dumas novel The Count of Monte Cristo).
After devouring all that Marseille has to offer, picture a day visiting the Roman influenced town Aix-en-Provence with views of the Alpes, and continue to the breathtaking lavender fields in Luberon, Sault, and Valréas. Once you've bought enough lavender oil, soap, and lotion, end the day back in Marseille for another night's stay. After a quiet morning strolling along the French Riviera, a train will whisk you through the French countryside once again until you're back in Paris. You'll get your last fill of the city and say goodnight to a twinkling Eiffel Tower from the balcony of your room. 
Does it sound magical, romantic, inspirational?

The time of year is perfect for the castle gardens and lavender fields to be in bloom. The weather should stay around the low to mid 70's with lots of sun. To a Floridian, that is cool and dreamy.

I hope the summer trip inspires lots of stories and decorating ideas. I'm sure the hubs won't be fond of the latter. The last thing he wants is a French inspired house renovation. A girl can dream. lol.

I planned this vacation all by my little self too and think I found a hidden talent. Travel agent. No thanks. My eyes were crossed for days and my brain ached from checking so many reviews, making sure we have the shortest flights, the seats with the beds so we can (try) to sleep on the plane, the best hotels, best tours, best seats on the train, best hotel locations.  Gah! It took me a week. I'm exhausted. 

If this trip isn't epic, I can't promise a slew of frustrated posts, where I complain for paragraphs, won't follow the trip. Let's hope for my sake (and yours) the vacation is great!

For those of you who have been to France and have suggestions of where to eat (café's, Bistro's, restaurants), do share!!!!!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

LOVE IS IN THE AIR

February = Valentines = romance = romance novels?

I don’t see a problem with that. I love a good romance novel!

Some people love romance movies and some people like romance novels—or both. I'm a both girl, but I prefer a book to a movie. #reader #writer

Whether you're single and ready to mingle, dating, or married, romance is a part of our lives, especially in February.

Valentines means candy, chocolate, flowers, jewelry, kisses, pink and red, pretty dresses, romantic dinners, spending time with a special someone.

But mostly, Valentines means romance. People love romance. It makes us feel good, cherished, happy, loved. Can I get an order to go please?



February is also my birthday month, so I get to celebrate twice! Lets hear it for Aquariuses! We are a dynamic, fun, often loud, bunch!

In honor of February and romance, I'm sharing my favorite romance novel. Hahahaha!  Did you believe me? Like I have one favorite romance novel. As if. I have several!

Give me fluttering butterflies in my tummy or give me death! 

 
Since I can't list all my favorite romance novels in one post, I'm going to list some of my favorites. They are in no particular order, though I will put if it's paranormal, contemp, ya, or adult. Also, not all are new releases. Oldies can still be goodies. 


 

A must for all romance fav
PRIDE AND PREJUDICE by Jane Austin

YA contemporary romance favs
THE VINCENT BOYS BOOK 1&2 by Abbi Glines
A FIELD PARTY SERIES by Abbi Glines
PERFECT CHEMISTRY by Simone Elkeles
IF I STAY BOOK 1&2 by Gayle Forman
ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS by Stephanie Perkins
LOLA AND THE BOY NEXT DOOR by Stephanie Perkins
ISLA AND THE HAPPILY EVER AFTER by Stephanie Perkins

YA paranormal and/or sci-fi favs
THE SWEET TRILOGY SERIES by Wendy Higgins
ETERNAL ONES SERIES by Kirsti Miller
TWILIGHT SERIES by Stephanie Meyers
SHIVER by Maggie Stiefvater
THE LUX SERIES by Jennifer Armentrout

Adult/New Adult contemp romance
THE ROSEMARY BEACH SERIES by Abbie Glines (Not all in the series but close)
THE ORIGINAL HEARTBREAKERS SERIES by Gena Showalter
WAIT FOR YOU SERIES by Jennifer Armentrout

Adult paranormal romance
IMMORTAL AFTER DARK SERIES by Kresley Cole
LORDS OF THE UNDERWORLD by Gena Showalter

That seems like enough for today! Hopefully, I've given you some new romance material. If you have any suggestions for me, do share!!!!  

My novels are always filled with romance! I love writing it and reading it, although I can read dirtier content than I can write. Blushing while writing certain scenes is real!


 


My current WIP (New Adult romance) has lots of blush-worthy scenes. It's a newer genre for me to write and yowzas! I'm not a shy girl, but I'm struggling with a character who demands to be dirty. Stress-sweating just thinking about it. LOL  #getoverit #coolwashcloth #omg #whycharacterwhy
Happy February!  

Friday, January 5, 2018

This Be The End.
It's over. Not the book. Today is the last day of giving. I loved sharing the first eleven chapters with you. I'm working on getting this book out so you can finish the story. It's finished. I completed it a while ago.

Answers are starting to appear for Praya and Dacian in this chapter. What they discover changes everything, but you won't learn what it is until I get out the book. Hang tight. It'll happen!

I'm adding a few more pics from my Pinterest like I did with the last post. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, check out my post titled 12 Days of Giving. All will be explained.  Enjoy the last sneak peek! 
From left to right- Praya by the lake, chair and fireplace where Praya reads, the Washer Woman, Praya.


































CHAPTER ELEVEN

Getting back to the woods takes longer than I expected. I'm not as energetic as before, drained from the run home and the emotional toll from seeing my family.

The river leads me back to the cottage. The thatched roof, golden against the trees, gives me a second boost. Almost there. Relief doesn't hit me until I'm at the door. Thank the Blessed Ones. The cottage remains as charming as it was when I left. I must be in the clear.

Out of breath and clammy with sweat, I grab the door handle. My hand shakes as I pull it open, nervous about who I might find inside. To my relief and surprise, the clean, cozy interior is empty. No Dacian.
I fall to my knees and catch my breath. "Thank you," I say to the cottage. "I will not forget this or my part of the bargain. I promise."

Behind me, the floorboards creak.

My muscles harden to stone.


"Do not turn around," Dacian orders.

I wait for the cottage to darken and return to its dingy state. It doesn’t. Does that mean Dacian has no power over it? He often refers to himself as a prisoner to the curse. I don’t understand what that means, or perhaps I didn't want to believe him.

"You left." Bitterness floods his tone. "You tricked the cottage into making a deal with you, and you left without my knowledge—without my approval—after all I've done to help you."

His anger I deserve, but the hurt I sense behind it, hits me in a strange way. "I’m sorry. I'm so sorry. I shouldn't have left. It was reckless and stupid. I wasn't thinking. I won't do it again. I promise." I bow my head more furious with myself than he could ever be. "Does your mother know?"

Silence meets my request.

"Please forgive me, Dacian. I'll do whatever I must to earn your forgiveness. Please tell me there's still a chance for me to fix this, to fix everything."

More silence.

Did he leave and I missed it? "Dacian?" I turn my head toward the door.

"Don't," he whispers from close behind me.

"I thought you left. You're being so quiet."

"I thought you didn't grovel." His tone softens.

"When I'm wrong I do."

"I prepared myself for a fight with you, certain your cajoling the cottage and deceiving me would be justified in your eyes. I never imagined you'd be … sorry."

"Are you no longer cross with me?" Can it be this easy?

His laugh is low and wry. "Don't mistake my surprise for forgiveness. You betrayed my trust and I demand to know why."

"I had to see my family. I had to let them know I'm safe and that I love them, and I needed to tell my father I'm sorry for deceiving him. You're not the only person I've betrayed. There was a boy in the village. We were supposed to … my Father arranged for us to … for him to save me."

He hisses out a breath and tension builds in the air. "You left to see a boy? Who? A suitor? You're not married or else you wouldn't be here."

"No. I told you. I left to see my family."

"Then who is this boy? Were you engaged to be married to him? Did you love him?"

"Dacian, stop," I plead. "There is no boy. I was referring to something else. I shouldn't have brought him up. He is nothing to me. He never was." And now, I'm worried I said too much. The last thing I want is to implicate Father for what he tried to do. The curse could be as strict as the Council regarding this matter. It would make sense.

"Then why are we talking about him?"

"You keep bringing him up."

He groans, and a puff of air, carrying his clove scent, brushes my back as he clomps away. "I don't know what to do with these feelings. It's like a war is going on inside me. You defy me, mock me, and instead of punishing you, I feel compelled to keep you safe."

"Punish me?" I cringe. "You have control over that?"

"No. Not exactly."

"Am I going to be punished for leaving?" Dread twists in my stomach.

Seconds tick by.

"You should be." He lets out a frustrated breath and shuffles around the room. "Your arrangement with the cottage saved you from that. It favors you for some reason. I don't understand why it does to such an extreme, but then I have you to answer that. What did you do?"

I swallow. "Why? Are you going to punish me after you know?"

"You won't be punished. The deed is done. Over with. Now tell me how you got the cottage to release you. It's never helped anyone in that way before."

"I know."

"How do you know?"

I turn my head to the side, not enough to see him, and touch the arm of the chair. "The cottage told me."

"Amus told you?" he says, incredulous.

I snap my head forward and cross my arms over my chest, my blood heating. "Don't be mad at him. He didn't volunteer anything. I asked the questions, he answered."

"Unbelievable."

I want to say believe it. It happened. Instead, I ask, "Are you going to be this grumpy all the time now?"

He moves to stand behind me again, close enough for me to feel the heat from his body. "Tell me what you did?" It's a whisper, a warning.

"I made a trade. I said I'd clean and care for the cottage in return for time to see my family. It seemed fair and worth a try." I rub an itch on my arm and hiss. Not an itch, it's a cut from the bushes and now it stings. How had I forgotten? "Can I get something to clean this?" I lift my arm to show Dacian. "I have several." Suddenly, they all burn.

He gasps and touches my wrist. "You're hurt. Why didn't you tell me?"

"I forgot." I lower my gaze and twist enough to inhale his delicious scent.

"Are your eyes closed? I need to inspect you."

I close them at once. "Yes."

He steps around me and brushes my hair behind my shoulders.

It feels intimate the way his fingers graze the skin along my neck. My breath catches and I shiver.

A soft laugh leaves him. "That's a nice reaction. What's not nice are the wounds on your collarbone and face. I'm sorry I didn't notice you were hurt."

His apology draws a small smile to my lips. "It's all right. It's my fault." I bow my head again and for some reason crack open my eyes.

Black pants and black shiny boots are clear as day, but what steals my gaze is his right arm, dangling by his side. Visible from his fingers to where his elbow meets his white rolled-up sleeve, his skin is the darkest color I've ever seen. Darker than the men in the village who work in the sun all day. The smooth, unblemished texture of his skin says he's an indoor person.

I don't know where he spends his time when he's not with me, but even if it's outdoors, the woods are too shaded for him to get the sun needed to deepen the tone in such a way. Other than that, his body seems no different from the boys in the village.

"Come. I need to tend to your wounds." He takes my hand and guides me across the room. Wood scrapes against the floors. "Sit in the chair."

With my eyes sealed shut, I do as I'm told.

"I’m going to touch the cuts. I won't hurt you, though. Try to relax." His voice comes from in front of me rather than above or behind me. It makes me think he's down on bended knee.

The impulse to open my eyes and see his face has me wishing I were blindfolded.

"Hold still." He moves my hands to my lap and sweeps a feather-soft finger across the cut on my arm. The area tingles and grows cold but not painful. The sensation fades and Dacian removes his finger from my skin. "Feel the wound," he instructs.

Hesitant, I touch my arm. The skin is smooth. Thinking I missed the spot, I feel around for the cut. Nothing. "I can't find it."

"It's gone. Healed."

"You can heal people?" I ask in awe.

"Not people, just you. It's part of my duty in caring for the chosen maiden. Now keep still and keep your eyes closed while I do the rest."

He heals the cut on my neck, my collarbone, and my cheek, his cool touch as gentle as a breath. I sink deeper into the chair, relaxed in a way I haven't been for longer than I can remember.

"All better." His voice is a close whisper.

"Thank you." My head lolls forward. I could fall asleep so easily.

"Praya?"

"Hmm?"

"You're falling."

For him? "I know."

"On me." He touches my shoulders and nudges me upright in the chair. "You were about to snuggle your head on my chest." A hint of humor sounds in his tone.

Alert now, I snap to attention. Heat rushes to my cheeks. "Sorry."

"No harm done." He moves away with a spice-scented breeze. "Have you been reading the book?"
"Book?"

"The one in the cottage. Right here on the table where it always is." Two thumps sound like he's tapping the book.

Ah, yes. That one. Perhaps, I'm not as alert as I thought. "Yes. I've been reading."

"Did you learn anything helpful?"

"Not yet. I've read a lot about the queen and her sister."

"Then you're not looking in the right places," he huffs.

  How can I look in the right places when I don't know where to look? The book is huge," I fire back. "Why are you so angry all of a sudden?"

"You have to ask?" He shuffles over to me, his presence looming like a dark shadow. A warm hand slides over my tight fist. "It seems I’m not the only one who's angry."

I draw back my hand. "I'm reacting to you. What happened to the softer version of you? The healer. I like him better."

"I have the right to be upset. You left, remember?"

"I came back."

"You were by the river, weren't you? Did you see me and my mother?"

Is that what's really bothering him? "I used the river to get to town or else I wouldn't have found my way out of the woods. I didn't mean to cross paths with you or her, and I didn't see anything. The fog was too thick. All I heard were your voices. I swear."

He lets out a heated breath. "I don't know if I can believe you."

"It’s the truth." I stand and turn away since stalking across the room isn't an option.

"I've granted you things I've never granted any other maiden, and yet you still defy me by breaking the rules or finding ways around them. Is this how you are with other people—with your family? You said you deceived them. Did you do this often?"

"No. Never. I love my family and would do anything for them." Anything but Tristin. Maybe I don't love them as much as I thought—as I should. My shoulders sag, that deep ache returning to my chest. "I hurt them in the worst way and I'll never forgive myself for it."

"What did you do that was so terrible?" 

I can't tell him. We were not only deceiving the Council but the curse as well. Who knows how Dacian will react, or the cottage. He may not even know villagers used to do it to keep their daughters safe, until the Council ruled against it. The severe punishment for the offence stopped families from any attempt decades ago.

 Father was irrational to arrange such a thing, and I was so desperate to appease him, I agreed. At least I know Tristin didn't tell on us as he promised. If he had, Father and the twins wouldn't have been at home. They'd never be home again.

"Your reluctance to tell me leaves me to believe it was awful, too awful for someone like you. Now I must know. I fear I won't sleep until I do."

 His lighter tone surprises me as much as it delights me. It's another side of him I didn't know existed—a good side—and it gives me an idea. "If you tell me why I can't look at you, I'll tell you what I did."

"Ahh," he says with an amused sigh. "So this is how you work. A secret for a secret. How enticing. No wonder the cottage didn't refuse you. I'll agree to your trade if you agree to go first."

My bottom lip drops. "Absolutely not. If I go first, what assurance do I have that you'll keep your word? You could change your mind and tell me nothing."

"True. I could, but if you trust me, you'll know I won't." He comes up behind me, warming my back. His breath touches my ear. "Can you trust me?"

Tingles run through me and my lips part. Is he teasing me like this on purpose? Should I care? Before him, no boy had this effect on me. I was beginning to think it wasn't possible, that I'm broken. To know I'm not, is as wonderful as it is hopeless. How like me to be tempted by the boy who could be my demise, even if not by his choice.

He wants me to trust him. He thinks I don't. Maybe, he's right. I inhale a breath of courage and choose my words carefully. "I allowed my family to believe I mated with a boy in the village, so they wouldn't worry about losing me to the curse."

Silence. He stays behind me but must straighten away because his heat on my back lessons.

Knots twist and tie in my stomach. Confessing was a mistake.

"How did you lead them to believe this?" Tension rings his voice.

"Does it matter how?" I keep my tone cool. "I didn't do anything, or I wouldn't be here."

"It was a lie?"

"In a way. Yes."

"And the boy? Does he exist?"

I turn my head to the side, resisting the urge to glance at him. "Are you jealous?" It would be a first for me.

"I … I want you to answer the question and turn your head forward."

A small laugh escapes me, but I do as I'm told. "The boy is no one, a random name from the village."

"That's good," he murmurs as if to himself.

 "Now you go."

"Very well," he says with ease. "I am forbidden to allow others to look at me."

"Why are you forbidden?"

He doesn't respond.

"A deal is a deal, Dacian. I told you my secret now you have to tell me yours."

He touches my hair and slides his fingers to the end. "Not yet." Sorrow fills each word.

I want to be understanding, but I want my answer, too. "You promised."

"I didn’t promise, but I will promise you this. If you find what we need in the book and there's a way for us to end the curse, I will let you look at me."

I'm about to take my chances and blindly stomp away when his words sink in. "You'll let me look at you because it's within your control? If you decide I can see you, then I can?"

"Yes."

My thoughts spin with this knowledge. He's in control. He decides; therefore, he would be the one to punish me. I trust him enough to know he wouldn't hurt me. Knowing I could break the rule and only have him to deal with is beyond tempting. I could accidentally glimpse him. Once it's done, it's done. You can't take that back. I'll know what he looks like, but how will I react? If his face startles me in a way I’m not prepared for, I could respond in a way that hurts his feelings. I don't want that.

Something nudges my arm.

"You should read," Dacian says.

I take the cool, hard object that can only be the book. "Can you guide me to the chair by the fireplace?" It's much comfier than the wooden chair at the table.

I feel him bend to my ear. "I'll do you one better and leave so you can roam freely."

As much as I hate keeping my eyes closed when he's here, I'm not ready for him to leave. "Don’t go." It's out before I can stop it.

"You want me to stay?"

"Yes." Without opening my eyes, I turn around. "Please." Even though I can't see, I can feel his gaze on my face.

"Very well." There's no enthusiasm to his tone. He guides me to the chair.

I lower onto the plush cushion and rest the book on my lap. "If I bore you too much you don't have to stay." Hurts builds inside me like a dark storm. This is what comes with sharing feelings. "I only offered because I thought I could scan the book and tell you what I see in case anything stands out. But if you have something more important to do, don't let me keep you."

I raise my guard, shielding my emotions from further hurt. Being Stone Beauty is safer than being open. Nothing good can come from caring for Dacian. There is no future for us. There may be no future for me at all if I don't find a way to break the curse.

That needs to be my focus, not my feelings or what Dacian's face looks like. I don't even want to see it anymore. The desire is gone, completely faded.

"Tell yourself what you want," he says as if he knows my thoughts. "Do your best to shut yourself off and act like you don't care, but I know you do."

He strolls around the room as if tempting me to look at him. I don't look up, even though I’m aware of his every move. Instead, I open the book and follow my finger, using it to scan the words on the page for anything out of the ordinary.

"This is new between us," he comments.

"I'm sure I don't know what you mean." 

"There's tension between us," he explains. "I've never experienced it before. I like it, but I also don't like it, if that makes sense."

"It makes perfect sense."  

"How so?"

The sweet vulnerability in his tone reminds me of his innocence. Not that I'm experienced in any way, but I've seen how boys and girls act when they're interested in each other but aren't courting yet. "It's what people do when they like each other. They bicker. It's normal."

"But I've liked other maidens, and I never bickered with them."

My finger halts on the page. He liked other maidens? Jealousy burns in my chest. Uncertain if I want the answer to this, I force myself to ask, "Did you like any of them the way you like me?"

He draws in a loud breath the way I've learned he does when he's thinking.

With each second, I fear the worst. Is he making a list? How many were there?

Finally, he says, "Not at all, not even close."

I sigh with relief, and then laugh at myself for being so worried.

"You are pleased with my answer," he states, pride clear in his voice.

I shake my head and flip through a few pages. A picture catches my eye. I flip back to the page and gasp. "I don't believe it."

"What?" Dacian moves closer.

"It's my mother's brooch." My brooch. Why?